"You must be the change you want to see in the world." ~ Gandhi
The Compassionate Action Institute was founded by Alice O'Neil in Brooklyn, New York in the summer of 2000. It was created in response to the senseless killing of a mother opossum who was carrying seven babies in her pouch. Teenagers circled the hapless animal who only wanted to cross the street. They tormented her for some time before beating her to death in full view of neighborhood residents who merely stood by and watched. It was clear from the comments of these adult bystanders that their ignorance had led to their fear of opossums and this was the main reason no action was taken to save the lives of this opossum family.
Please read Alice's Story
Alice launched a campaign that started with her personally distributing 3,000 leaflets with facts about opossums to every home in the neighborhood. She also arranged newspaper coverage of the killing of the mother opossum. In addition, she organised a wildlife rehabilitator to give a talk at the local library explaining the need for peaceful coexistence with urban wildlife. As a result of this humane education, people in the neighborhood developed knowledge, respect and compassion for these gentle creatures.
An opossum is on the logo of the Compassionate Action Institute in remembrance of this mother opossum. It makes her cruel death easier to bear to think that she inspired the foundation of an organization that promotes humane education and encourages people to take compassionate action on behalf of those who can’t speak for themselves.
Alice keeps a low profile but is undoubtedly the heart and the soul and the driving force behind The Compassionate Action Institute. Here is what she says about her achievements so far:
Although we are only a small group, we have been very active. Here are a few of the things we have been able to accomplish:
- We created the pleasebekind.com website that provides information on a variety of animal issues to people around the world.
- We founded the Gerritsen Beach Kind Kids Club for children ages 8-12. Kids learn about animals and how to help them and participate in humane projects.
- We sponsor poster contests each year for "Be Kind to Animals Week." More than 200 children have participated during the past two years.
- We have provided KIND News subscriptions to teachers in New York, Ohio and South Carolina. We obtained a grant from the Alliance for Public Shelter Animals that provided KIND News subscriptions to 500 classrooms in New York City. KIND News subscriptions cost $30 per year for 32 issues each month of the school year. If you would like to provide a subscription to your local school, visit www.kindnews.org
- We created a humane education database that makes it easy for teachers to obtain humane education material. Although the database is not yet accessible on our website, we have sent copies to interested parties the United States.
- We’ve worked with groups in Maui and South Carolina who wanted to start humane education programs in their areas.
- Upon hearing about the plight of animals at the municipal shelter in Gatesville, Texas, we donated a brand new igloo dog house to help provide shelter for the dogs as well as specially insulated cage comforters and kitty balls for the Gatesville felines.
- We volunteer at the municipal shelter in New York City. When we saw that the cats’ water bowls easily tipped over soaking the cages, we provided 6 dozen non-tippable stainless steel water bowls so the cats can stay dry.
- We run the Cage Comforter Program for the municipal shelter and in less than two years the program has provided close to 10,000 beds and 8,000 toys to the homeless animals sheltered there.
- We founded an employee animal lovers club at the New York City Housing Authority that is working to improve conditions for animals in New York City and around the world. Check out the CAT section on this website to read about the accomplishments of this group.
- We have answered countless requests for information from people around the world who have been faced with urban wildlife problems. These have included such things as mice stuck on glue traps, bats in the attic, orphaned baby rabbits, skunks trapped under the house, etc.
- We have helped many students by answering requests for information on animal-related issues.
All of this and much more has been accomplished in a short time by a mere handful of people on a very small budget inspired by a little opossum who just wanted to cross the street in peace.
The need is great. Get involved and do your part to help make a kinder, gentler world.
The name "Compassionate Action" came from ideas expressed by Mary Lou Randour in her book Animal Grace: Entering a Spiritual Relationship with Our Fellow Creatures (New World Library: Novato, California, February 2000):
…Awareness is the source of compassion... Compassion is the underlying principle of the Golden Rule… Crucial to the notion of compassion is the ability to see the other’s suffering and then to respond to it; compassion requires us to take action that will relieve suffering. It makes us moral agents….Compassion, then, is an action. It also is a strong feeling, not a sentiment, which trivializes it…Compassion is a kind of ‘fierce tenderness’ that contains a powerful energy. It is the energy of a fierce warrior determined to relieve suffering.
"Institute" was added to Compassionate Action based on a future vision where this group would develop its own humane educational materials and programs and perhaps even provide training to teachers and humane educators.
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
~ Edmund Burke ~